BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Oct. 31, 2019– The water coming out of the pumping station at Double Run which supplies Belize City has been discolored for about two weeks now, since the rains began. After customers in Belize City began complaining, Belize Water Services (BWS) called a press conference on Monday, October 28, to explain what has been happening with the water coming through the pipes from Double Run.
The water company told citizens that essentially the water has more iron in it, and that is what has been responsible for the discoloration. BWS Chief Executive Officer, Alvan Haynes, seemed to assure consumers that the water is safe to consume.
That, however, is a different story from what the Ministry of Health Water Analyst stated yesterday, Wednesday. Ministry of Health Water Analyst, Anthony Flowers, said that the discolored water does not meet the quality of the World Health Organization’s guidelines and is not suitable for drinking.
Flowers explained that when they are testing water for drinking they look at different parameters — “bacteriological, physical chemical parameters.” “If any of these parameters are outside the normal values set by World Health Organization guidelines for drinking water then we would deem that water not suitable for drinking,” he said.
Flowers added, “In this case, the discolored water we had one particular parameter we found that was not in the acceptable range. That was turbidity of the water, is basically looking at how clear the water is. When we did our test we found that the turbidity in that particular sample that we tested was twice the accepted value.
Hence, we would not deem that water suitable for drinking. We didn’t have an issue with the bacteriological quality of the water, but I do know that increased iron in drinking water can lead to a rise in what we call iron bacteria and that would proliferate and cause the water to take on more of that reddish brown color.”
Flowers said that the discolored water is unsafe to wash clothing in because it could stain the clothing, especially white clothes.
What Flowers asserted is almost opposite from what the BWS CEO Haynes told the public on Monday.
It is not known what test criteria BWS used to arrive at its conclusion that the water is safe for consumption.
CEO Haynes had said at the BWS press conference on Monday, “The first thing is really to reassure customers and consumers, everybody, the slight discoloration of the water, and sometimes, it is worse than slight; based on what we have seen is that the water is not unsafe. However, based on our test, it is due to increased levels of iron in the water which basically comes through from the untreated water. We treat it through the plant but it does not remove the iron levels because the plant at Double Run was designed for the type of water that was tested at the time the plant was being constructed twenty-odd years ago.”
CEO Haynes explained that the chlorine used to treat the water is what caused the water to become discolored.
“So, as the water sits in the system, it comes from the plant clear and as it sits in the pipes it then builds up the discoloration. So, the simple solution is to run the water a little bit so that clears out and then it is perfectly good,” said Haynes.
Flowers went on to explain that drinking the discolored water would be “objectionable” from a taste standpoint, “…because drinking water with increased iron in it lends to a bitter taste and it can also stain your laundry if you wash your clothes with it.” He further stated, “Increased turbidity, you have a lot of particles in there, so you can have bacteria that are attached to those particles. So that is where the safety aspect of it comes in. So the turbidity has to be below a certain value; in this case it is five. It has to be five or less for it to be even acceptable for drinking. Anything above that leads to rises in terms of the water having that cloudy appearance.”